My younger son has a speech delay, my older son has apraxia --a neurological speech disorder that requires frequent and intensive speech therapy to learn to speak. He didn't say his first words until he was almost four. Devastated by the lack of conversations I got to have with my children, one day I turned to Scripture. Surely there was a passage or verse about speech that would encourage me, right?
Yes there was. I was astounded by the hundreds of Scriptures that referenced words and speech and speaking and declaring. Some of them I found especially encouraging as I worked with my sons and their speech difficulties, and I will share my favorites with you below.
But what also encouraged me is how many times in Scripture we see a story of a Bible character with a disability of some kind, and we see that they were not overlooked, but lavished with love and compassion and care by God and by Jesus. Each story was a beautiful reminder that God loves and pursues us and our children too. They are important to Him and loved by Him in a way we will not grasp this side of heaven.
This is a beautiful passage about "a deaf man with a speech impediment" (Mark 7:32 NLT) and was brought to Jesus. But the verses I especially love are in verses 34-35.
Jesus looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, "Ephatha!" (which means "be opened!"). At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly."
I love this for many reasons, but especially for my older son who not only has a speech disorder but also a severe hearing loss in one ear. The thought of God being able to open my child's ear and loosen his tongue so my son could speak clearly was something I long for in my child and is a Scripture of healing I pray over my son.
But I also just love the fact that it indicates Jesus' care for people no matter how large or small the concern may seem. How much power He has over everything, from the wind and the waves, to the ears and the tongue. He has power over and concern for everything that matters to us. We can pray and He will listen and He cares.
"Moses said to the Lord, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue. The Lord said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not, I the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say." ..."Your brother Aaron the Levite can speak well...I will help both of you speak...He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth."
I love this passage because it shows me three things about God.
"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" Psalm 119:103
Although this is a verse about how much the psalmist loved God's word, I clung to this as a verse about how I felt about each of my children's new words. Each new word they said was sweet and to be savored and celebrated.
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Proverbs 25:11
When my children said their first word and then slowly added to their vocabularies I viewed each of those words as something special to treasure, like an apple of gold in settings of silver.
I then combined the words I liked from both of these verses - 'sweet' from Psalm 119:103 and 'apples of gold' from Proverbs 25:11 to form my new prayer for my children of "Sweet apples of gold." I prayed for new sweet apples of gold in my prayer time with God and on the way to speech therapy and praised God for new sweet apples of gold after my children said a new word or phrase. I honestly love this phrase to refer to my childrens' speech and love how it has become a part of my prayers, praying God's own words to thank Him for the new ones my children can now say.
"You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord."
My older son didn't say his first words until he was almost four. Before then, we relied on nonverbal communication, sign language and a familiarity with my son's ways and routines to guess his needs, just as the first part of the verse indicates. God knows us so intimately He knows our needs and our children's needs before we can even communicate them.
Once my son did start talking, due to his apraxia diagnosis his words were often difficult to understand. I constantly had to translate his words to others, but there were times I myself couldn't even figure out what he was saying, and it was frustrating for both of us. One day, both of us were in tears as I tried in vain to understand what my precious son was saying. I told him, "Buddy, I'm really trying to understand. I really want to know, I just don't. But God does. God knows what you're saying and you're thinking." And I remembered that concept came from a verse and I looked it up and added it to my arsenal of scriptures to pray regarding speech for my children.
It encourages me to know that when I can't understand my own children, there is Someone who can. And it is a concept I can remind to my children--"Buddy, I don't know what you're saying. I want to and I'm trying. But God knows every word on your tongue, and every word you're thinking and cannot say." And that reassures both of us.
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Keep pressing on and keep praying, my friend! You are doing a fantastic job with your precious child, and though it's not an easy journey, it is definitely worth it. Know that God is always by your side, and is walking with you and your child day by day, whether or not new apples of gold come.